The Soapmaker, Bank and Sustainable Winery That Are Leaders in Community Giving

Companies That Stand Out as Best for Community

Dr. Bronner's

Dr. E.H. Bronner, founder of the community-focused eponymous soap company.
Photo courtesy Dr. Bronner's

As part of B Magazine’s 2016 Best for the World honors, we selected companies that are leaders in community giving, support and development. These businesses are proving that a business can go far beyond engaging in community service. To be Best for Community, companies are examined for their supplier relations, diversity, community service and involvement, charitable community giving, and impact on social issues.

Whether by providing paid, on-the-job IT training, opening opportunities for loans and banking in low-income communities, or a winery that commits to building Habitat for Humanity Homes, the companies listed below are leaders in profitable and scalable business models that include community giving at their core.

Sustainable Suds

Dr. Bronner’s | Soap and personal-care products | Vista, California

Soap sales and social causes are the fundamental motivations at Dr. Bronner’s. Charitable donations from this family-owned maker of liquid organic soap and other personal-care products exceed 2 percent of sales each year. The funds have supported a range of social and community causes, including animal welfare, children and youth services, legalization of marijuana, food safety, prisoner education, regenerative agriculture and raising the minimum wage.

“As a benefit corporation, Dr. Bronner’s has the imperative to utilize its business resources to fight for just causes in our society,” says Kris Lin Bronner, the company’s social-responsibility manager and strategic advisor. “All profit that is not necessary for business growth and development is donated to the community through charity and advocacy.”

Founded in 1948, the company reported revenues of just under $100 million in 2015. Dr. Bronner’s products, including bottles of castile soap with the company’s iconic text-heavy labels, use 75 percent certified-organic and fair-trade ingredients.


 

Gifting the Company to the Community

Impact Makers | Marketing and tech consulting | Richmond, Virginia

Michael Pirron, founder and CEO of Impact Makers, launched his technology consulting company in 2006 with “a laptop, $50 in the bank and one contract.” Impact Makers provides project-management and information-technology consulting to companies and government agencies, and from the beginning Pirron committed to giving 100 percent of net profits to charity.

Today, Impact Makers is growing — and fast — with $17.8 million in revenue last year (65 percent above 2014), more than 100 employees, and about $1.6 million in cumulative donations of cash and time to nonprofit partners.

Michael Pirron of Impact Makers

Last year the company granted ownership to The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia and to fellow Best for Community honoree Virginia Community Capital. Those two organizations agreed to use funds from the eventual sale of Impact Makers, likely within 10 years, for philanthropy and impact investing.

“We’re a group of middle-class professionals doing the same work we’ve always done but structuring it differently and making the same impact in the community as large foundations in town. It’s a total game changer compared with the typical philanthropic model of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, where an individual makes a lot of money and then gives it all away at the end of [his] career,” says Pirron.


Shopping for Nature

Nature & Découvertes | French retailer | Toussus-le-Noble, France

Nature & Découvertes draws customers into its 85 locations by designing the stores to connect with nature. Its products include jewelry, games, food and textiles, all designed to encourage a closer connection with nature.

The company’s philanthropy also focuses on encouraging people to spend time outdoors. It donates 10 percent of net profits and 1 euro from each of its loyalty club subscribers’ fees to environmental projects. In the past two decades, the company has contributed 10.5 million euros ($11.8 million) to 1,900 such initiatives.

In 2015, the company began asking customers whether they want to “round up” their purchase totals to support local nature-focused charities.

“To date, 130 associations have received more than 230,000 euros [$258,000] and 1.2 million of our customers have made a gift already,” says Etienne Ruth, sustainable development manager. “It’s awesome.”

Nature & Découvertes is committed to fair trade, and sustainable and organic agricultural products. Founded in 1990, the company now has shops in France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.


The Little $800 Million Bank That Could

Beneficial State Bank | Financial institution | Oakland, California

Some might call Kat Taylor ambitious. As co-founder and co-CEO of Beneficial State Bank, Taylor says, “We are working to create a capitalist economy that lives within ecological limits and shares prosperity with all.”

For Taylor, banking is the original and most powerful form of crowdfunding. She founded the bank in 2007 with her husband, Tom Steyer, and her co-CEO is Dan Skaff.

Beneficial State Bank stat

The charitable Beneficial State Foundation was established to receive 100 percent of any profits distributed by the bank. After the bank gets through its early growth stages, all profits will be invested to improve communities and the environment, as required by the foundation’s bylaws.

The bank is committed to investing its capital to improve the environment and communities in which it operates, and refuses to lend money to companies in the petroleum or coal industries.

Beneficial State has also been seeking values-aligned acquisitions, such as its purchase of Pan American Bank earlier this year. Since the acquisition, Beneficial State has been able to market subsidized down payments and loans for working-class families to get access to lower-cost hybrid and electric vehicles.


Imbibing for Better Community

A to Z Wineworks | Sustainably produced wines | Newburg, Oregon

Nearly half of the 59 employees at Oregon’s largest winery, A to Z Wineworks, are women, and many are immigrants. Among the wine giant’s numerous civic efforts, A to Z raises funds for local health clinics, pays employees for 16 hours of volunteer work a year, and helps build homes for those in need.

A to Z Wine Bottle

“We collectively work with Habitat for Humanity, and our bottling manager, a single Latina mom, was able to buy a Habitat home,” says Katie Quinn, marketing manager.

Founded in 2002, A to Z produces 400,000 cases a year under four brands — A to Z, Rex Hill and the artisanal labels William Hatcher and Francis Tannahill — that are sold in a variety of national retailers, including Whole Foods, and restaurants such as Flemings and Capital Grille. In 2015, revenue grew by 11 percent, continuing the company’s multiyear, double-digit revenue growth.


The School That Gives Students Jobs

MAXX Potential | Tech apprenticeships | Richmond, Virginia

The 40 apprentices learning web design and other information-technology skills in Richmond, Virginia, are not ordinary students — they’re paid, full-time employees of their school. Founder and CEO Kim Mahan worked 12 years in corporate IT and recognized a way to solve the shortage of skilled workers and give young people new opportunities. In 2012 she founded MAXX Potential.

MAXX Potential’s six full-time employees train and oversee the apprentices, who earn a starting salary of $10.50 an hour to serve the company’s clients.

Kim Mahan Quote

Many students take on thousands of dollars of debt to attend a technical school or receive an IT degree.
“The point of our model is that you are earning while you are learning and gaining valuable experience,” Mahan says. “This is a more economically viable path.”

The company’s projects have included the Community Care app for Goochland County, Virginia, a local YWCA website rebuild, and several projects for Fortune 500 companies.


Find More Best for the World

Check out the full list of Best for Community honorees and read about Roshan, a featured Best for Community honoree. Dig deeper and explore the full list of 515 honorees on our interactive Best for the World hub. You can also review the full Best for the World criteria and methodology.

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